Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2021-73
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2021-73

  01 Apr 2021

01 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

A low-cost monitor for simultaneous measurement of fine particulate matter and aerosol optical depth – Part 3: Automation and design improvements

Eric A. Wendt1, Casey Quinn1, Christian L'Orange1, Daniel D. Miller-Lionberg3, Bonne Ford4, Jeffrey R. Pierce4, John Mehaffy1, Michael Cheeseman4, Shantanu H. Jathar1, David H. Hagan6, Zoey Rosen5, Marilee Long5, and John Volckens1,2 Eric A. Wendt et al.
  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 80523
  • 2Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 80523
  • 3Access Sensor Technologies, LLC, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 80523
  • 4Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 80523
  • 5Department of Journalism and Media Communication, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, 80523
  • 6QuantAQ, Inc., Somerville, Massachusetts, USA, 02143

Abstract. Atmospheric particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) impacts public health, the environment, and the climate. Consequently, a need exists for accurate, distributed measurements of surface-level PM2.5 concentrations at a global scale. Remote sensing observations of aerosol optical depth (AOD) have been used to estimate surface-level PM2.5 for studies on human health and the Earth system. However, these estimates are uncertain due to a lack of measurements available to validate the derived PM2.5 products, which rely on the ratio of surface PM2.5 to AOD. Traditional monitoring of these two air quality metrics is costly and cumbersome, leading to a lack of surface monitoring networks with high spatial density. In part 1 of this series we described the development and validation of a first-generation device for low-cost measurement of AOD and PM2.5: The Aerosol Mass and Optical Depth (AMODv1) sampler. Part 2 of the series describes a citizen-science field deployment of the AMODv1 device. Here in part 3, we present an autonomous version of the AMOD, known as AMODv2, capable of unsupervised measurement of AOD and PM2.5 at 20-minute time intervals. The AMODv2 includes a set of four optically filtered photodiodes for multi-wavelength (current version at 440, 500, 675, and 870 nm) AOD, a Plantower PMS5003 sensor for time-resolved optical PM2.5 measurements, and a pump and cyclone system for time-integrated gravimetric filter measurements of particle mass and composition. The AMODv2 uses low-cost motors and sensor data for autonomous sun alignment to provide the semi-continuous AOD measurements. Operators can connect to the AMODv2 over Bluetooth® and configure a sample using a smartphone application. A Wi-Fi module enables real-time data streaming and visualization on our website (csu-ceams.com). We present a sample deployment of 10 AMODv2s during a wildfire smoke event and demonstrate the ability of the instrument to capture changes in air quality at sub-hourly time resolution. We also present the results of an AOD validation campaign where AMODv2s were co-located with AERONET (Aerosol Robotics Network) instruments as the reference method at AOD levels ranging from 0.016 to 1.59. We observed close agreement between AMODv2s and the reference instrument with mean absolute errors of 0.046, 0.057, 0.026, and 0.033 AOD units at 440 nm, 500 nm, 675 nm, and 870 nm, respectively. We identified individual unit bias as the primary source of error between AMODv2s and reference units and propose re-calibration to mitigate these biases. The AMODv2 is well suited for citizen-science and other high-spatial-density deployments due to its low cost, compact form, user-friendly interface, and high measurement frequency of AOD and PM2.5. These deployments could provide a rich air pollution data set for evaluating remote sensing observations, atmospheric modeling simulations, and provide communities with the information they need to implement effective public health and environmental interventions.

Eric A. Wendt et al.

Status: open (until 27 May 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse

Eric A. Wendt et al.

Eric A. Wendt et al.

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Short summary
Fine particulate matter air pollution is one of the leading contributors to adverse health outcomes on the planet. Here we describe the design and validation of a low-cost, compact, and autonomous instrument capable of measuring particulate matter levels directly via mass sampling, and optically via sunlight extinction measurement. We demonstrate the instrument’s accuracy relative to reference measurements and its potential for community-level sampling.